Saturday’s college basketball action featured a wide range of performances including potentially the best individual offensive showing you’ll ever see in a half and the worst offensive performance by a team since the start of the shot-clock era.
Other notable results included Duke winning by 30, North Carolina avenging its worst home loss under Roy Williams with a road win at Louisville, Kentucky showing its mettle on the road and Kansas avoiding its worst losing streak in six seasons.
Here are our reactions and observations from Saturday’s games.
Tre Jones stifles Shamorie Ponds in Duke’s big win
Duke point guard Tre Jones wasn’t named to the 15-player midseason watch list for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award last month and he showed again Saturday why that was a ridiculous omission.
Jones defended St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds, a First Team All-Big East selection last season who was scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting with five turnovers in the first half of Duke’s 91-61 win.
The Duke point guard picked up his counterpart from St. John’s the entire length of the court and made it difficult for Ponds to even dribble across half court. Think about that – a junior who is coming off a first team all-conference season having trouble to even initiate his team’s offense because of the defense of a true freshman.
Ponds entered Cameron Indoor Stadium averaging 20.9 points per game and he finished with 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Zion Williamson had another standout performance with 29 points on 13-of-17 shooting, six rebounds, five steals and two blocks, and it was hard to choose which one of his highlight-reel plays was most impressive, but don’t overlook another stellar defensive performance from Jones.
NC State scores 24 points against Virginia Tech
The lowest field goal percentage by a Division I men’s basketball team since 1986 was Dayton’s 13.3 percent shooting performance against Miami (OH) on Dec. 29, 2001. NC State shot 16.7 percent (9-of-54) in a 47-24 loss at home to Virginia Tech Saturday.
The Hokies played without their senior point guard Justin Robinson, the team’s second-leading scorer who suffered a foot injury against Miami (FL) on Wednesday, leaving them with just seven scholarship players.
They were only a point away from doubling up the Wolfpack on the road.
At face value, a road win for Virginia Tech at NC State won’t be among the most impactful results in the regular season but for a short-handed Hokies team to win by 23 and put clamps on the Wolfpack, which entered the weekend with the nation’s No. 22 offense, will be one of the strangest performances we’ll see all year.
Here’s some more fun with numbers:
- NC State’s 24 points were the fewest by a ranked team in the shot clock era, according to ESPN State & Info.
- NC State’s football team averaged 33.3 points per game last season.
- The Wolfpack scored at least 24 points on the gridiron in 10 of their 13 games last season.
- NC State scored 0.45 points per possession in the loss. The worst adjusted offensive efficiency in the country is New Hampshire’s 82.4 points per 100 possessions, so the Wolfpack scored at roughly 45 percent worse of a rate in the game than the country’s worst offense this season.
- NC State dropped 12 spots on kenpom.com immediately after the loss and its adjusted offensive efficiency ranking fell from No. 22 to No. 54.
- The NC State player with the highest offensive rating in the game was Wyatt Walker, who scored three points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Memphis guard Jeremiah Martin has historic second half in losing effort
It’s only fair that we counterbalance NC State’s dismal offensive performance with Memphis’ Jeremiah Martin scoring 41 points in a half. Ultimately, it didn’t affect the final outcome as the Tigers were on the losing end, just like the Wolfpack.
Memphis lost at South Florida 84-78, falling to 13-9 (5-4 AAC), but Martin made things interesting in the second half after the Bulls started the game on a 27-1 run.
After missing all three of his field goal attempts as he was scoreless in the first half, Martin exploded for 13-of-17 shooting in the second half to score all of his game-high 41 points. He made his first six shots from the floor after halftime, fueling a 65-point half for the Tigers.
Scoring 41 points in a game is a tremendous feat; to do so in a half is almost unheard of. Marquette’s Markus Howard scored 40 points in the second half of a win against Buffalo in December, capping off a 45-point performance, but these types of scoring outbursts are far from normal.
North Carolina gets road revenge at Louisville
Let’s hope that we get a third game between Louisville and North Carolina this season. The Cardinals won by 21 points in Chapel Hill in mid-January, handing Roy Williams his worst home loss at North Carolina, and the Tar Heels returned the favor on Saturday with a 79-69 road win.
North Carolina dominated the boards – 47 to 31, including 18 offensive rebounds – in what was otherwise a fairly even game in the rest of the box score.
North Carolina shot 42 percent from the field to Louisville’s 41.9 percent.
The Tar Heels shot 78.9 percent from the free throw line compared to the Cardinals’ 77.8 percent.
North Carolina had only one fewer turnover and one less foul.
Louisville even made four more threes and shot nearly 10 percent better from deep.
North Carolina’s 41.9 percent offensive rebounding rate and 81.6 percent defensive rebounding rate in the game would both rank first nationally over the course of the season. Eighteen of the Tar Heels’ 79 points (22.7%) were from second-chance scoring opportunities, while the Cardinals had just three second-chance points. The home team didn’t have an offensive rebound until 10 seconds into the second half.
Kentucky shows resilience with road win at Florida
Kentucky’s trip to Gainesville was tied for the toughest game the Wildcats had remaining in the regular season against a non-Tennessee opponent, according to kenpom.com. The site gave Kentucky a 56 percent chance of victory at Florida and at Mississippi State, and it appeared the Wildcats were going to suffer their second SEC loss of the season at the hands of the Gators.
After taking a four-point lead into halftime, Florida pulled away by 11 with just under 14 minutes left as Kentucky scored just two points in the first 7:27 of the second half.
The Wildcats finished the game on a 34-12 run as Tyler Herro (nine points), Keldon Johnson (eight) and PJ Washington (seven) – two freshmen and a sophomore – fueled the comeback, showing a resilience for this young Kentucky team. Washington, especially, was visibly expressive during one dead ball as he gathered his teammates in a huddle amid Kentucky’s big scoring run to end the game.
Florida fell to 12-9 on the season with the loss but the Gators ranked as a top-30 team on kenpom.com with a top-10 defense entering Saturday, so Kentucky’s win is the latest proof that the Wildcats as we know them today – not as we knew them in November – appear to look more and more like a Final Four contender by the week.
Kansas gets back in the win column
Facing its first three-game losing streak since February 9, 2013, Kansas got right at home to defeat Texas Tech 79-63. The victory improved the Jayhawks’ perfect record at home to 12-0 this season.
But it’s not home games that have given Kansas trouble this season.
The Jayhawks are 1-5 on the road and all six have come in their last 12 games.
Dedric Lawson went for another double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds but this time he had serious help from his supporting cast, especially from behind the arc. Kansas was 13-of-30 (43.3%) from three, including a perfect 3-of-3 day from behind the arc from Lawson, who capitalized on his role as the trailer on offense.
Freshman guard Devon Dotson scored a career-high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting with three three-pointers, while Lagerald Vick (13 points) and Ochai Agbaji (10) both reached double figures.
Agbaji, who was supposed to redshirt this season but had his redshirt lifted after center Udoka Azubuike suffered a season-ending injury, appears to be hitting his stride as he gets up to speed for the Jayhawks.
Since moving into the starting lineup, he has scored 24 points with seven rebounds at Texas on Tuesday, then he recorded the first double-double of his career with 10 points and 10 rebounds on Saturday. The 6-5 wing is incredibly athletic (he finished an alley-oop on Saturday over teammate David McCormack, who’s 6-10) and he has made at least one three in six of his eight games.
The Jayhawks are 6-3 in the Big 12 after their latest win and they’re firmly in a regular season title race that also features Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State. The question now is can they find any consistency on the road, from behind the arc or in the production of their freshmen guards.